The Departed by Melissa Hayden

Cresting the rocks overlooking the blue glow of Welkin, Rashad felt sweat cascade down his face and back. His space suit’s warning alarm beeped, drawing Rashad’s heightened attention to the oxygen gauge on his arm.

How could it be?

The oxygen level was plentiful when he’d left the buggie. A hole? No, alarms would have sounded sooner. Heavy breathing? He’s in top shape, from physical routines required of all space walkers. It’s fear.

Will I make it in time?

He turned his attention to the pod station formed in a seven-spoked wheel below, his temporary home. He dropped to his stomach. Gravity working against him, forcing the breath from his lungs as rocky terrain wedged tubes and suit hardware into his ribs.

Cursing the one thing that had been a blessing a short time ago, Rashad wished he had the buggie that’s now stuck in the sinkhole. If the sinkhole hadn’t opened beneath him, he’d be dead like the others. That whoever in the strange crafts now below, heading straight for his friends in what will become their glass coffins, would have seen him.

The alien hover crafts came to rest on its three downward points, waiting. The beings inside the metal triangular crafts were not here for peace. It was obvious from what they’d done to his friends. They were here to take and kill.

Rashad slid down the back of the rocky hill, trying to ignore the insistent beep of his suit, now louder and reminding him of his mother nagging him to listen. Almost falling as he stumbled across loose gravel and stones as he scurried, he remembered documentaries of the old world’s desert terrain.

Gasping for air and sweat stinging his eyes, he came around the cliff to the tunnel entrance of the station.  Welkin’s blue lights, a trick of specialized glass, instantaneously vanished. The whine of the air supply fans dying worried him, but he had to get new oxygen tanks and help his comrades.

The doors at the entrance closed behind him when he hit the manual release. The comforting whoosh of air control didn’t follow. A flashlight flickered on the other side of the interior doors, outlining someone in a similar suit.  They forced the door open, giving Rashad access. His hand went to his throat, the other pointed at his tank. The woman behind the glass mask nodded, closed the doors, and raced to the closet for a fresh tank. Hooking up the tubes, Rashad breathed deeply, relieved at the blessed air.

“We have to go.” Rashad blurted once his mind caught up with his body.

“They shut us down.” The woman responded already running as fast as she could in the bulky suit. “The shuttle’s loading now.”

“We all aren’t going to make it.” Rashad hated his words.

“We know.” She said, not looking to him.

What will happen to those left? What will those beings do to them? Rashad thought. Then found he didn’t want to know and ran faster.


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